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USB cameras - An Introduction

Updated: Dec 20, 2020

We can notice that sensor manufacturers are coming up with innovative ways to provide us with higher resolutions sensors or higher frame rate sensors. This brings up a new challenge of how we can integrate these sensors with platforms. We need to have interfaces that enables us to carry forward the higher frame rates that sensors can support to the host. USB is one of the popular interface.

USB, stands for Universal Serial Bus, was designed to standardize the method peripherals are integrated with PCs. It enables communication as well as carrier power. It has largely replaced interfaces such as parallel ports and serial ports.

The USB standard started with USB 1.0 and now are at USB 3.2. We can notice exponential increase the bandwidth that each new variant can support. The most popular standards in USB are the USB 2.0 and the USB 3.0. The USB 2.0 supports a bandwidth of 480Mbps whereas USB 3.0 supports a bandwidth of 5Gbps.

The benefits of USB that makes it a go-to interface for cameras:-

1. Standardized interface – All PCs have USB interfaces, either USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 or both, making it possible to integrate cameras with any PC. The connectors are also standardised. Standardization removes the need for any adapter boards in between cameras.

2. Carries Power, Data and Control – USB interface apart from carrying data and control signals also enables the carry of power. Thus, the cameras can get the power required for performance from the PC via a single cable. There is no need of any additional power source or secondary cable.

3. Digitized – The USB data is already digitized. We have the USB host controller on the PC and the USB client at the camera end. This removes the need for any additional frame grabbers. Thus, we can expect reduction in footprint of the solution and the cost of the solution.

4. USB is Hot Swappable – The devices can be exchanged, removed and added without requiring the PC to be rebooted each time. This makes is very user friendly.

In USB cameras, we come across USB 2.0 cameras and USB 3.0 cameras. Considering USB 3.0 is still evolving and USB 2.0 is a well-established technology, we notice a relatively higher options for USB 2.0 cameras. However, USB 3.0 does offer a substantial benefit in terms of the bandwidth it can support that it resulting in more and more USB 3.0 cameras being launched.

The use case and the application shall driver the requirements such a resolution, frame rate, dimensions, cost etc. These requirements enable us to narrow down on whether USB 3.0 cameras or USB 2.0 cameras is the way to go.

We are Regami Solution are always available for a discussion on the use case, work with you to translate the use case into camera requirements and then help you identify the right camera.

Please feel free to reach us.


Sarvesh Rajagopal

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